Up until the mid-1980s, all British television stations closed down for the night at around 12:30am, sometimes up to an hour later on Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the ITV companies wanted to expand their broadcasting hours in the belief there was an untapped market for television through the night. As early as 1983, London Weekend Television (LWT) was experimenting with extra hours on Friday and Saturday nights during its Nightlife strand, which pushed back closedown until after 2 am.
Towards the latter part of the decade, Channel 4 had extended late night broadcasting hours and transmission staff for the ITV regional companies were required to playout the network’s commercial breaks, even if the main ITV station had already closed down. There was also speculation of a threat from the Independent Broadcasting Authority to franchise overnight hours to a new company as had been done with breakfast television (TV-am) in 1983. Within just over two years of ITV’s first overnight experiment (at Yorkshire Television in 1986), the entire network had commenced 24-hour transmission.
Night Network was ITV’s first major experiment into the area of overnight broadcasting beginning on Friday 28 August 1987, originally for the ITV regions covered by LWT, TVS and Anglia, before expanding to other regions during the summer of 1988. Whereas overnight broadcasts are commonplace today, back in the late 1980s, ITV decided it would take a more cautious approach with Night Network only initially broadcasting between 1 am and 4 am in the Friday and Saturday night schedules, and between 1 am and 3 am in the Sunday night schedule.
Night Time from Granada
On 2 September 1988, four of the smaller ITV companies (Border, Grampian, Tyne Tees and TSW – joined from 3 October 1988 by Ulster – began 24-hour broadcasting with the introduction of Night Time, a part-networked service provided by Granada Television’s presentation department in Manchester and intended to help the smaller ITV stations who were unable to provide a service of their own.
Granada’s Night Time service was wound down during 1995 – with programming carried from LNN from January onwards before presentation was handed over to the London service on 5 June.
ITV Night Time (Thames / LWT)
During 1991, Anglia, HTV and TVS discontinued their own overnight strands and began carrying a new ITV Night Time service from London, provided by Thames from Monday to Thursday and LWT from Friday to Sunday. For the first time, both London companies utilised the same on-screen branding throughout the week – the only notable difference being LWT’s near non-use of a continuity announcer at the weekend.
Following the loss of Thames’ franchise on 31 December 1992, Anglia and HTV began taking Granada’s Night Time, leaving LWT with its own overnight presentation – the network-branded 3 Nights, which featured some of LWT’s local programming.
3 Nights (LWT)
On 1 January 1993, the new ITV franchise holder for London weekdays, Carlton introduced a new ‘Nightime’ service, airing from Monday – Thursday nights and simulcast by Meridian and Channel Television. It was also briefly simulcast by Central between 1994 and 1995.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, Meridian & Channel broadcast its own version of Nightime, presented in-vision from Southampton by ex-Late Night Late presenter Graham Rogers. Both Carlton and Meridian/Channel services utilised the same on-screen branding and presentation throughout the week. Around this time, programming largely consisted of output airing on the other services as well as imports including French soap Riviera and in the case of Meridian, regional programming, including World Of Sailing and Freescreen, an experimental series featuring viewers’ videos and social action features.
ITV Night Time (LNN)
From 13 February 1995, London News Network (a subsidiary of Carlton & LWT) launched a revamped overnight service featuring new neon-themed presentation (without any station-specific branding) and a year later, a brand slogan – Television with Attitude. Initially broadcast in London only, the service expanded on 5 June to most of the regions formerly served by Granada’s version of Night Time (which had been following the same schedule as LNN’s service since the start of the year).
NightTime / The Edge (Meridian)
Following the launch of the LNN service over much of the ITV network, Meridian’s overnight service expanded to seven days a week in February 1995 and began airing in the Anglia region. Overnight continuity links were discontinued in favour of announcer-less idents and presentation.
Meridian’s programming was also adopted in January 1996 by HTV and Westcountry, who opted to run separate local presentation from HTV’s presentation centre in Cardiff. The arrangement continued when Meridian revamped and relaunched the service as The Edge in September 1996. The service largely carried the same programmes provided by LNN with some regional opt-outs for programmes such as Meridian’s World of Sailing and Freescreen.
In 1998, The Edge was dropped and replaced by a set of idents using generic ITV branding. These idents were amended later that year to reflect the change of ITV’s generic logo and continued to be used until May 2000, by which time, Meridian had adopted the generic overnight branding used by the rest of the network since November 1999.
With 24-hour programming becoming the norm on British television, ITV phased out the Night Time logos and presentation on overnight shows by late 1999 with generic network branding taking its place in most regions and ITV Nightscreen starting to take up timeslots towards the end of the night. From 2001 onwards, many of the former overnight programmes associated with the old Night Network and Night Time services were replaced with repeats of networked daytime shows (many of these including on-screen BSL signing for the deaf). By 2005, the only original Night Time programme still airing was the offbeat cookery show Get Stuffed. Scottish and Grampian (both branded overnight as “Nighttime TV”) continued to run its own overnight schedule until around late 2004.